Marks and Spencer Group Plc

The objective of this paper is to provide an analysis of how three important organisational theories are applied in practice at Marks and Spencer Group Plc, herein referred to as “Marks and Spencer”. The organisation is U.K giant retailer of clothing, apparel and food items. Its shares are traded on major stock exchanges across the world and it is a member of the FTSE 100 Index. The paper looks at specifically how gender, organisational control theory and management theory are applied in practice at Marks and Spencer. The rest of the paper is organised as follows: section 2 provides a discussion of gender theory and how it is applied at Marks and Spencer; section 3 looks at Management and its application at Marks and Spencer; section 4 looks at Organisational culture and its application at Marks and Spencer; and section 5 provides conclusions and recommendations.

In the earlier years, the work force of many organisations was dominated by men. However, recent years have witnessed a dramatic increase in the labour force participation rate of women (Campo et al., 2004). Wagener et al. (1997) observes that the labour force participation rate of women has increased by 173 per cent since 1950.
Despite the increase in the number of women in the labour force, evidence suggests that differences continue to exist between the experiences encountered by men and women at work (Reskin and Padavic, 1994; Valian, 1998). Many organisations are said to be characterised by gender inequality where women and men are treated differently. The main forms of gender inequality at work include differences in the types of jobs occupied by men and women, differences in pay between men and women and differences in leadership roles between men and women (Campo et al., 2004).
The foregoing suggests that many organisations continue to practice gender segregation, which is defined as “the process whereby men and women work in different types of jobs and further that hobs where women predominate tend to be devalued” (Campo et al., 2004: 586).
Most often women tend to have different experiences with respect to pay, promotion and decision making even in situations where women and men have the same job title (Messing et al., 1994). Women with the same education, job training and experience are offered less pay (Valian, 1998). In addition, most leadership positions are occupied by men (Wright, 1997). Catalyst (1998) provides evidence that 90 per cent of executive positions in top 500 firms are occupied by men. Despite the increase in the participation rate of women in the work force, most of the benefits associated with working accrue to men with a very limited amount of benefits accruing to women.
Theory seems to suggest that women and men are treated differently in organisations. This paper provides an evaluation of gender inequalities at Marks and Spencer. At Marks and Spencer, job recruitment policies are the same for both males and females. There is no gender segregation with regards to who is qualified to apply for a job. In addition, Marks and Spencer does not segregate with respect to pay rates between males and females. All workers are treated the same when it comes to pay regardless of whether they are male or female. Consequently, the gender segregation theory proposed above appears not to be applicable at Marks and Spencer at least with respect to recruitment, training, selection, induction and pay.
There however, seems to be some level of segregation when it comes to leadership roles. At Marks and Spencer, most executive positions are occupied by Men with very limited number of executive positions occupied by women. Secondly, the board of directors is dominated by men. This suggests that while Marks and Spencer does not segregate with respect to lower level roles, there is some level of gender segregation when it comes to high level positions such as being a CEO and chairman of the board of directors.
Management is employed in organisations as a means of bringing people together and ensuring that they work to accomplish the objectives of the organisation through an effective and efficient utilisation of the organisational resources. Management has a number of functions which include: planning, organising, leading, staffing, controlling and directing. In order to effectively carry out these functions, most organisations have three principal levels of management. These include top level managers, middle-level managers; and lower level managers (Juneja et al., 2011).
Top level managers are made up of the board of directors (BoD), the Board chairman, the vice chairman and the CEO. Top-level managers are responsible for determining the goals and objectives of the organisation as well as designing and appropriate strategy to achieve those goals and objectives. Top level managers also design company policies, as well as make decisions with regards to the direction of the business. Top level managers are also responsible for securing access to funds necessary for executing the strategic plans of the organisation (Juneja et al., 2011). Top level managers report to shareholders and are also accountable to the general public. Top level managers must have a detailed comprehension of the impact of competition, global economies, politics and sociological changes on the organisation’s effectiveness (Kleiman, 2010). Knowledge of these issues enables them to adapt the strategy of the organisation to changes occurring within and outside the environment.
Middle level managers are usually regarded as general managers, branch managers and heads of departments. Middle level managers are responsible for making tactical decisions. They are the ones who execute the strategies set by top level managers. They are also responsible for transmitting information from top level managers to lower level managers so as to ensure that they are working towards the common goals of the organisation. Middle level managers report to top-level managers.
Lower (first) level managers are responsible for operational decisions. They are made up of supervisors, team leaders and foremen. Members of this level of management are primarily concerned with controlling and directing other employees. Their main responsibilities include the assignment of tasks to employees, guidance and supervision of employees, ensure that quality and quantity of production is achieved, recommend and suggest changes with regards to employees and production to middle level managers for subsequent transmission to top-level managers.
Marks and Spencer has all three levels of management. The company has a board of directors made up of executive and non-executive directors. The non-executive arm of the board is headed by the chairman who is also the chairman of the entire board. The CEO who is also a member of the board is in charge of the executive directors. The Board of Directors of Marks and Spencer are responsible for setting the strategic plans and monitoring and devising strategies to manage risks. Marks and Spencer operates a number of divisions such as clothing, food, and apparel. Each division is headed by a middle level manager. In addition, Marks and Spencer operates across different regions. These different regions are headed by branch or regional managers who can be regarded as middle level managers. These managers are responsible for making tactical decisions. Marks and Spencer also has first or lower level managers who usually operate as store managers. They are responsible for supervising and directing employees on a day-to-day basis. These managers report to the divisional and regional managers who in turn report to the top level managers. It can be observed that management at Marks and Spencer is consistent with the description of the different levels of management discussed earlier.
Organisational Culture
Organisational culture has been defined in a variety of ways. One of the most commonly cited definitions is found in Baumgartner and Zielowski (2007: 1323) who describes organisational culture as a concept that is “holistic, historically influenced, related to anthropological concepts, socially constructed, soft, and relatively stable”. A more comprehensive definition is found in Johnson et al. (2008: 189) who state that organisational culture is “the basic assumptions and beliefs shared by members of the an organisation, that operate unconsciously and define in a basic taken-for-granted fashion an organisation’s view of itself and its environment”. Lundberg (1990: 20) suggests that organisational culture can be regarded as what an organisation teaches and reinforces to its members as proper ways of perceiving, thinking, feeling and acting when carrying out organisational tasks as well as when faced with crises in the organisation. Organisational culture is a direct result of the internal and external environment in which the organisation operates (Baumgartner and Zielowski, 2007). An organisation’s emerging patterns of success are important foundations for its culture. Emerging patterns of success can be regarded as those actions and processes that have enabled the organisation to be successful (Baumgartner and Zielowski, 2007).
Organisational culture is critical for the design and implementation of corporate and business level strategies. Organisation culture shapes the procedures of the organisation (Yilmaz and Ergun, 2008). Organisational culture enables an organisation to group its core competencies into a single group of competencies thereby enabling the organisation to better serve its customers (Yilmaz and Ergun, 2008).
Strategy formulation and design depend on organisation culture in that factors such as creativity, innovation and organisational structure depend in part on the culture of the organisation (Judge et al., 1997; Martins and Terblanche, 2003). Any organisation that wants to remain competitive must be creative and innovative. These two components must be incorporated into the corporate strategy of the organisation. The organisational culture has a critical role to play in determining whether the organisation will be creative and innovative. In other words an organisational culture that promotes creativity and innovation is required if the organisation is to remain competitive. However, a culture that discourages creativity and innovation will result to poor performance (Martins and Terblanche, 2003). An organisation that wants to succeed must therefore adopt an organisational culture that encourages employees to be creative and innovative rather than a culture that discourages them from being creative and innovative.
Organisational culture also impacts on strategy formulation in that it promotes internal integration and coordination. Internal coordination encourages new employees to socialise with existing employees. It also creates the boundaries of the organisations and a feeling of identity among members of the organisation (Martins and Terblanche, 2003).
In order to successfully formulate and implement strategies, the organisation must conduct a cultural audit. This enables the organisation to understand its culture and thus assess its impact on the future strategy of the organisation. By so doing, the organisation can decide whether to change or continue with its existing culture (Johnson et al., 2008). An understanding of organisational culture also facilitates the ability of the organisation to successfully manage strategic change.
The organisational culture of Marks and Spencer has the following characteristics:
Paradigm: Marks and Spencer states that it is the best, sets the best standards, knows bests, occupies the middle ground, synonymous with high quality, and respects its customers.
Power: the organisation is very powerful with deference to a male dominated top management.
Organisation: the organisation is a mechanistic, bureaucratic, top-down and hierarchical organisation.
control: top-down control in detail both of the stores and of suppliers; insistence on conformity.
Rituals and Routines: There are a number of rituals and routines where every employee knows his or her place, the store layout and the atmosphere is like a familiar to everybody.
Story: the company has build a legacy which can based on its history. For example Simon Marks. These legacy has enabled it to gain power over suppliers. Moreover, top management have authority over lower level staff.
Symbols: Marks and Spencer has a number of brands (e.g., the St Michael Brand) which and symbolic to it. In addition Simon Marks and CEOs appear as father figures. Finally, all its stores are identical in appearance.
It can be observed from above that Marks and Spencer has a traditional and formal way of doing things as reflected in its organisation culture. The organisation is characterised by a huge amount of self-confidence. The system is an internalised one where everybody knows his/her place and role in the organisation. The advantage with this type of organisational culture is that in times of success, the organisation will continue to deliver high quality products to customers as well as success to employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders. However, by maintaining such a traditional and formal way of doing things, the organisation runs the risk of not being able to respond to changes in the environment which may be required to turn things around during a downturn. Moreover, in addition to making it difficult to respond to changes in the environment, such a culture may prevent the firm from seeing an emerging change in the environment thereby making it impossible to respond to the change.
Conclusions and Recommendations
The objective of this paper was to understand how Marks and Spencer deals with gender, management and organisational culture. With regards to gender, much of the theory suggests that there are more women in employment today and argue that organisations continue to practice gender segregation where women and men tend to have different experiences at work. However, a review of the practices of Marks and Spencer suggest that Marks and Spencer provides equal opportunities for both male and female employees. The only area which seems to comply with theory is the fact that Marks and Spencer’s top level managers are predominantly male which goes to show that Marks and Spencer practices some form of gender segregation when it comes to organisational leadership. As regards management, Marks and Spencer has three levels of management as suggested by theory. Top level managers are responsible for strategic decisions; middle level managers are responsible for tactical decision while lower level managers are responsible for operational decisions. With regards to culture, Marks and Spencer has a very rigid organisational culture which derives mainly from its history. The culture has enabled Marks and Spencer to be successful. However, given the rigid nature of the culture, the organisation may find it difficult to manage an imminent change if things start to go wrong. In order to reduce its gender bias especially with regards to leadership, the organisation needs to relax rules that govern selection of members of the board as well as other top level positions so as to make it easier for women to occupy these positions. With regards to its culture, the organisation needs to make things a little flexible so as to make it possible for the organisation to respond quickly to changes within its environment.
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